Building up Olympic hopes
Last weekend some of Park City’s own Olympic athletes showed their prowess in the workshop instead of on snow. In an event sponsored by the Home Depot in Park City, Olympians and U.S. Ski Team members Jillian Vogtli and Jeret "Speedy" Peterson and Paralympian Monte Meier and aerialist Emily Cook teamed up to participate in an Olympic-themed workshop for kids. The event, which took place Saturday, allowed children, ages five through 12 to work with their parents and the athletes on creating wooden bobsleds. The Home Depot, is a major sponsor of the Olympic movement, and is home to the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Olympic Job Opportunities Program (OJOP), which allows Olympic athletes to have a flexible 20-hour work week tailored around their training schedules. Vogtli, Peterson and Meier are all employees at the Park City store and have participated in past children’s workshops. With the Games just months away, the Olympic-themed event offered children at select store locations across the country the opportunity to celebrate the coming the Games and spend time with some of America’s past Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. "It’s getting into the Olympics and getting the kids ready. The kids always have the best time, because they are blown away by what we do," Peterson said. The athletes had the opportunity to discuss their experiences with the kids and answer questions about their sport and participation in the Olympics. The Olympians also passed out postcards, which they autographed for the children. "It’s always fun to see the expressions on their faces when they find out you were in the Olympics," Peterson said. "We get a chance to interact. It’s fun. The thing I like about kids is: their questions are so honest and true." Vogtli, who works in the garden department, was especially excited to host the workshop. She says that besides sharing her experiences, the workshops are always a great opportunity for kids to learn how to build and spend quality time with their parents. Peterson works in the paint department, which he says he selected so that he can make a mess of himself. He also fancies himself as quite a master builder, and shared his expertise with the children. "I like to do a lot of construction stuff. I finished the basement in my house and I usually spend my entire paycheck here [at Home Depot]," Peterson said. Meier works in the hardware department, so being handy in a building situation is part of his life. He also feels that giving time to youth is another facet of his responsibilities. "For me, its being a part and helping them a make a project, whether it’s a fire truck or a bobsled," Meier said. Apparently, Meier came to the workshop with his own fan club. The Goldman family, father Roger and his two kids, Porter, 8, and Skylar, 11, who are Meier’s friends of Meier, came because they find his attitude as an athlete inspiring. "He takes time to talk to children. He realizes that its part of his job in a positive sense. He realizes that as an athlete you are a role model. My kids really look up to him," said Roger Goldman. Skylar agrees. "He’s cool and he’s funny," she said. "I made a mistake and he undid it." For the Home Depot, the excitement of watching their athletes prepare for the Olympics is something that they want to share with children in the community. According to Park City Home Depot store manager Shane Liston, the athletes’ support of youth workshops is second to none. "We see kids bringing in their statistics cards and having them sign it. They are very aware of the Olympics and the athletes in them," Liston said. It seemed that for some of the younger builders, the fact that they were working with world-class athletes had not really sunk in yet, but many parents figured that it would all come together when the Games start next year. "I think our daughter will make the connection," said Helena Golden, a mother of two attending the workshop. "We’re friends of Emily Cook. When the Olympics are on, we will look for her." The fun extended to all ages. Twelve-year-old Ashton Strauss-Hook accompanied her younger sister Carol Ann’s birthday party, and soon wanted to join in. The Home Depot provided the complimentary project kit, tools and expertise to build the kits, along with a kid-sized orange apron. According to Vogtli, some of the kids enjoy the workshops so much that they can hardly wait to get started. "They get so excited," Vogtli said. "The last time we did a workshop, one girl came in her apron and was dancing she was so excited." The Home Depot offers themed workshops monthly.
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